Well I’ve survived the first day of our road trip! We woke up two hours later than we meant to but I guess we were just relishing a bedroom for a few hours longer, as we won’t see one again for five weeks!
Our first stop was Port Macquarie and the Koala Hospital. The Koala Hospital is a society focusing on the preservation and conservation of koalas. It was founded by Jean Starr and her husband Max in their back garden.
They weren’t trained vets or experts in any way, but their love for koalas was enough, and their backyard sanctuary grew to the hospital it is today – eight intensive care units, six outdoor ICUs, 33 rehabilitation yards and vast shrubbery for the koalas to climb as part of their recovery.
The hospital is open 8am – 4.30pm everyday and is run by a small team of staff and the rest by volunteers. They hold great group walk and talk tours every single day at 3pm. It’s completely free, but the centre does not receive government funding. There is however a donations box that you can add to if you wish.
Up to 200 koalas are treated every year by a dedicated group of volunteers at the hospital. The animals are treated for a range of different illnesses and injuries, including dog attacks, bush fire burns, car accidents and chlamydia.
Chlamydia is actually a very common sickness among koalas. It’s a sexually transmitted disease and can cause serious illness, blindness and eventually death. The volunteers at the centre pointed out, if you ever see a koala in the wild with a brownish greasy stain on their bottom, ring the nearest sanctuary immediately, as that is a sign of a very sick animal effected by chlamydia.
Throughout the tour we met some really gorgeous koalas who were on the mend in the hospital. The aim of the centre is to get the animals on their feet ASAP and relocate them back to their natural environment. Unfortunately, there are some koalas will never be able to live in the wild again due to some injuries, so they stay here at the hospital.
Jack is a permanent resident of the hospital. He was hit by a car and suffered severe brain trauma. He was brought to the centre on the brink of death. Luckily he was saved, but the poor little fella lost both his eyes in the process. When we met him he was curled up on the floor where he spends most of his time. The carers tenderly hand feed him and the other sick koalas with syringes and they feed on eucalyptus tree provided by the centre also.
How Can We Help?
– As well as donations, the hospital also allows people to sponsor a koala for for about $60 a year. You will receive updates, pictures, stickers and more.
– If you are a backpacker like myself, it’s imperative that we take care while driving. One of the biggest killers of koalas are vehicles, so take care while driving and try stay off the road at night time.
– If you see a koala while on your travels, appreciate their beauty, take some snaps but stay well away. Koalas are wild and an invasion of their space will cause them stress.
– If you’re living Down Under, planting ‘koala food trees’ can help repopulate the species. Their favourite of the eucalyptus tree are: Tallow Wood, Swamp Mahogany, Grey Gum, Scribbly Gum and Nicholii.
– Also, if you have a dog, make sure you keep him inside at night. We met a poor little lady today who lost an arm and an eye because of a dog attack
– The biggest threat to these beautiful animals is building and development. Probably the most effective thing you can do to help the species is write to your local, state and federal government to remind them of the dwindling numbers of koalas and insist the koalas are more important than that new shopping centre.
The Koala Hospital is a registered charity and only exists by a dedicated group of volunteers. The hospital needs a minimum of $450,000 a year to keep up and running. If you are doing the East Coast Road Trip, please do not pass over Port Macquarie. Pull in for an hour or two and make your way to the hospital. You can spend as long as you want with the koalas and take the cutest pictures! Donate whatever you can because it’s money well spent and the future of the koalas depends on it!